The V&A Waterfront

Cape Town’s historic harbor, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, has been transformed over the last twenty-two years into a mixed-use development and one of the city’s largest tourist attractions. Visitors can tour the harbor by foot, bike, boat, or helicopter; board ferries to Robben Island; shop at an expansive mall; and ride the Wheel of Excellence (which, in my opinion, is not any more excellent than most other Ferris Wheels). This article has a great overview of the harbor’s history and the preservation efforts that have successfully kept it as a working harbor throughout its redevelopment. Despite its centrality in World Cup celebrations, it still remains relatively isolated from the rest of the city. Cape Town Partnership CEO Andrew Boraine has some suggestions on how to strengthen the Waterfront’s linkages to the rest of Cape Town.

I made one of my visits to the Waterfront on a Friday when the world’s largest ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, was docking in Cape Town. It docked at the adjacent modern port, since it is far too large to access the Victoria and Alfred Basins. As is usually the case, the ship’s hordes of tourists had to make their way from the ship to the shopping on a fleet of tour buses.

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La Cinta Costera – The Coastal Beltway


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(English translation below)

Una de las campañas primeras de La Alianza Pro Ciudad fue enfocada en la construcción de la Cinta Costera de la Ciudad de Panamá. La organización pidió al Ministerio de Obras Públicas construya un parque que transforme positivamente la ciudad en lugar de un proyecto masivo de tráfico. La primera fase, que reclamó 25 hectares de la Bahía de Panamá entre Punta Paitilla y Casco Viejo, completieron en el 2009 por $ 189 millones. Para aliviar la congestión del tráfico crónica (ay, demanda inducida), la Avenida Balboa se convirtió en el uso de una via, con tres carriles locales y tres carriles expresos. Cuatro carriles expresos en la dirección opuesta añadieron, en dirección noreste hacia el Corredor Sur. Casi veinte y cinco por ciento de los terrenos ganados del mar se dedicó a las áreas recreativas y jardines, pero los grupos ambientales, incluyendo La Alianza Pro Ciudad clamaban por más:

Miembros de Alianza Pro Ciudad Raisa Banfield y Álvaro Uribe habría dicho que el plan original era tener un parque costero con un vial, no un camino mejorado con pequeños trozos de espacio verde.

Cuando yo andaba en la Cinta Costera, no parecía un parque costero exitoso. La pista de jogging, canchas de baloncesto, ciclovias y quioscos estaban decididamente infrautilizados. Restricciones de la conducta y la alta cantidad de carriles de coches de alta velocidad son dos factores que conducen a esta falta de popularidad. Aunque seis puentes peatonales fueron construidos como parte del proyecto, sólo van super cuatro de los diez carriles, desde la acera frente al mar hacia las estacionimientos en el centro del proyecto. Los peatones tienen que correr a traves de seis carriles de tráfico para llegar al resto de la ciudad desde el fin de los pasos superiores.

A pesar de estas deficiencias, la Cinta Costera ha ofrecido algunos beneficios a la ciudad. Los valores de propiedad en las cercanías se han subido, y la ciudad se siente menos económicamente estratificado con un fuerte vínculo físico entre Punta Paitilla y Casco Viejo. La Cinta Costera ha servido como espacio público necesario para varios desfiles y manifestaciones, incluyendo los más recientes contra los cambios propuestos al código de minería del país (fotos aquí).

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One of the formative campaigns of Alianza Pro Ciudad centered on the construction Panama City’s Coastal Beltway, La Cinta Costera. The organization pressured the Public Works Ministry to turn a traffic project into a more broadly urbanist one that transformed Panama City’s waterfront. The first phase, which reclaimed 25 hectares from the Bay of Panama between Punta Paitilla and Casco Viejo, was completed in 2009 at a cost of $189 million. In an attempt to alleviate chronic traffic congestion (oh, induced demand), the existing Avenida Balboa was converted to one-way use, with three local lanes and three express through-lanes. Four express lanes in the opposite direction were added on the landfill, heading northeast to the beginning of the Corredor Sur. Nearly one quarter of the reclaimed land was devoted to recreational and landscaped areas, but environmental groups including Alianza Pro Ciudad clamored for more:

Members of Alianza Pro Ciudad, Raisa Banfield and Alvaro Uribe are quoted as saying that the original plan was to have a coastal park with an improved road, not an improved roadway with little bits of green space.

In the times I walked and rode along the Cinta Costera, it did not seem like a successful coastal park. The jogging path, basketball courts, bike lanes, and gazebos were decidedly underutilized. Behavioral restrictions (e.g. an abundance of signs reading “Keep off the grass”) and multiple lanes of speeding cars are two factors leading to this lack of popularity. Though six pedestrian overpasses were constructed as part of the project, they only run across four of the ten lanes, from the waterfront footpath to the parking lots in the middle of the project; pedestrians still need to weave their way through six lanes of traffic to get from the end of the overpasses to the rest of the city.

Despite these shortcomings, the Cinta Costera has offered some benefits to the city. Property values in the vicinity have jumped, and the city feels less socioeconomically stratified with such a strong physical link between the ritzy Punta Paitilla and the less ritzy Casco Viejo. The Cinta Costera has served as much needed public space for various parades and protests, including the recent ones against proposed changes to the country’s mining code (great pictures here).

The video below includes some renderings of the project (and Enya’s Caribbean Blue – I can offer no explanation for this music decision, especially since the project is along the Pacific, not Caribbean, coast). Translation of the first part of the text: “New Balboa Avenue – Park with Sporting, Cultural, and Recreational Areas – An End to Traffic Jams – The Most Well-known Image of Panama is About to Change…For the Better.” There’s a great clip of an animated school bus going by some of the new park facilities at 1:00, going to show how integral a part of Panama City the diablos rojos are.

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